Competition continued to heat-up in the 18-goal winter season at Port Mayaca Polo Club (PMPC) in Okeechobee, Florida, with Old Hickory Bourbon (Harry Caldwell, Joaquin Panelo, Matias Magrini, Stevie Orthwein) and Beverly Polo (Bill Ballhaus, Lucas Diaz Alberdi, Jorge “Tolito” Ocampo Jr., Hilario Figueras) facing off in the final of the Butler Handicap®.
Emerging from a three-way shootout to determine the finalists, the two teams were neck-in-neck throughout the competition, with Beverly Polo narrowly taking their previous meeting over Old Hickory Bourbon (OHB) 11-10. The familiarity and competitiveness between the opponents did not disappoint, as the final lent itself to another fantastic finish, with Beverly Polo’s Ocampo Jr. leading his team with three unanswered goals in the final chukker of regulation to end the match 10-7 and inscribe Beverly Polo’s name onto the historic Butler Handicap® trophy.
Old Hickory Bourbon’s leading scorer Joaquin Panelo pushes down field with Beverly Polo’s Hilario Figueras in pursuit.
Finishing the 18-goal season at International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) in Wellington, Florida, with a victory in the Iglehart Cup and a finals appearance in the Joe Barry Memorial, Beverly Polo relied on their early successes and two-year roster continuity to carry them through their competitive season and into Butler Handicap® contention. Acknowledging the steep challenge of beating OHB in two consecutive games Figueras noted, “they’re really tough, [but] we’ve got the youth, we’re a fast team with a lot of agility.”
“We trust each other. Maybe you fail, but it’s all part of the process.” – Jorge “Tolito” Ocampo Jr.
OHB’s Panelo also leaned on his prior achievements in the 2022 season as a valuable substitute in CK Shack’s 18-goal Ylvisaker Cup victory at IPC. Putting his team on the board, Panelo secured Old Hickory Bourbon’s first goal on a successful Safety. Playing an open, classic style of strong team polo, Ocampo Jr. responded for Beverly Polo with his first from the field. Following a second penalty conversion from Panelo, Figueras and Alberdi went back-to-back for Beverly Polo to end the low scoring, defensive first half with a 3-2 lead.
Committing five fouls in the first three chukkers of play, Beverly Polo knew they needed to try and limit the opportunities given to Panelo to strike from the line. Reaffirming their abilities and strategy in the break, Ocampo Jr., stated, “we had some troubles with fouls, but we have a good system, and Hilario [Figueras] is a strong back. Lucas [Diaz] Alberdi and Bill [Ballhaus] are fighting in front and I’m trying to pass the ball. We keep it open and moving.”
Jorge “Tolito” Ocampo Jr. led Beverly Polo with six goals, including two from the penalty line.
Confident in their talents as a cohesive unit, Beverly Polo’s effective ball circulation was on full display at the start of the fourth chukker on a drive off the mallet of Figueras from the 60-yard line, allowing an unmanned Alberdi to escort the ball across the line. Beverly Polo’s strong play continued following a goal for Ballhaus on a brilliant assist from Alberdi to take a 5-2 lead.
Still struggling to generate any offensive progress from the field despite many opportunities, Panelo kept OHB in the game on three consecutive penalty conversions to re-tie the match 5-all. Ocampo Jr. kept the pressure on OHB, scoring Beverly Polo’s first penalty goal of the day on a Safety, only to keep the momentum swaying in favor of his team with his second from the field. As time began to expire in the fifth chukker, Magrini finally hit the posts for OHB’s first and only field goal and a one-goal deficit moving into the final chukker.
Keeping themselves in the game with their ability to draw the foul, OHB’s Panelo was sent to the penalty line once more on a Penalty 2, securing his sixth conversion of the match. With the game deadlocked and down to the wire, Ocampo Jr.’s offensive talents broke through, scoring three consecutive goals to carry Beverly Polo across the finish line to a spectacular 10-7 Butler Handicap® victory.
Old Hickory Bourbon’s Matias Magrini keeps his eye on the ball ahead of Beverly Polo’s Hilario Figueras.
Finishing the game with six of Beverly Polo’s ten total goals, Jorge “Tolito” Ocampo Jr. was awarded Most Valuable Player. Reflecting on the successes of his team to capture their second 18-goal tournament of the season, Ocampo Jr. gave credit to all his teammates, “today we were quicker in our turns and looking for the backshots.”
On the importance of Beverly Polo’s continuity and reliability in their latest championship victory, Ocampo Jr. continued, “We trust each other. That’s all Bill [Ballhaus], he likes to keep it simple and try with the same team. Maybe you fail, but it’s all part of the process. It means a lot for us coming to Port Mayaca, we wanted this tournament. I’ve enjoyed playing with this team for two years and I hope we can play together for many more.”
Most Valuable Player Jorge “Tolito” Ocampo Jr, presented by Port Mayaca Polo Club Manager Laura Linfoot Townsend.
Yatay Nectar (Open Emiratos x Guapita), a chestnut mare played by Ocampo Jr. and owned by Beverly Polo was named Best Playing Pony. Strategically played in the fourth and sixth chukkers, Ocampo Jr. stated, “I was going to play her in the second and I didn’t jump on her [then] because I knew I could play her more in the end. I’ve played her since I arrived at Beverly, she’s one of the top horses I’ve got. She’s a complete horse, very powerful and has amazing turns.”
Best Playing Pony Yatay Nacar. Played by Tolito Ocampo Jr. and owned by Beverly Polo. Pictured with Roberto Moncada, Felipe Fuentes, Isaias Aguilera, Nico Margalef, Josue Tercero, Pablo Velazquez.
Cheering on from the sidelines, decorated veteran 6-goaler Nacho Figueras, and father to Hilario provided an extra element of support and insight for Beverly Polo. Reflecting on the significance of capturing the Butler Handicap®, Hilario Figueras shared, “it’s a really important trophy, with a lot of history, I’m really proud of the team today. We’re a young team. We focused on staying calm and practicing patience with each other. It’s a long game and we played it through.”
“We’re excited about this win today,” shared team owner Ballhaus. “This was a tough tournament with four strong teams. After losing our first game and coming back to win the next two, we felt very fortunate to be in the finals.” Grateful to take home the Butler Handicap®, Ballhaus also extended his gratitude for PMPC. “We’ve really enjoyed our experience at Port Mayaca. Stevie [Orthwein] and the entire team do such a great job with the entire organization, especially the fields—they play fast, and we love playing here.”
In just two years, Bill Ballhaus and Beverly Polo have made five 18-goal finals appearances.
With all of Beverly Polo’s impressive showings steadily accumulating at the 18-goal level including four finals appearances and two victories in just two seasons at IPC, Ballhaus spoke to the potential for the organization, “we’ve had a plan over the past few years to build our team and continue to improve our string of horses. We’re going to finish our season with the Monty Waterbury and another 16-goal tournament then assess where we are against where we expected to be and determine our next steps from there.” Although the future is certainly bright for Beverly Polo, they will now look forward to their upcoming challenge in the Monty Waterbury®, as Figueras stated with confidence, “we’re looking forward to finishing the season with another win!”
Beverly Polo and OHB will be back in action at PMPC in the Monty Waterbury, where OHB will seek to defend their title. Continuing a busy high-goal season across Palm Beach County, the second leg of the GAUNTLET OF POLO® at IPC resumes with the USPA Gold Cup®, where Stevie Orthwein, Joaquin Panelo, Matias Magrini, and Santino Magrini will be competing for Old Hickory Bourbon/Airstream, as Lucas Diaz Alberdi continues his GAUNTLET journey with La Fe.
All photos courtesy of ©David Lominska.